A Long Love

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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In what feels now like another lifetime, I was a minister. I’m not a minister anymore but I am called upon from time to time to resurrect that role and speak the words appropriate to such moments as birth, death, marriage, and the occasional homecoming game.

My summer’s end occurred as I stood in front of a man and woman and guided them as they renewed their wedding vows. They were celebrating fifty years of marriage. The fact that I am their first-born son made this all the more significant. You don’t hear of many couples celebrating fifty years. A lot of individuals don’t live to see fifty, much less celebrate that many days alongside another they’ve long loved.

So that hot August Arkansas afternoon the service began exactly the way it did fifty years ago—my dad sang to my mom. No kidding. He remembered every line of “Because You Came to Me” just like he told me he would. I let his a capella version hang in the humid air for a few moments before I spoke. That just seemed fitting. Then my introductory words or sermon or homily or whatever went something like this:

Fifty years ago in this very spot, my parents exchanged vows with one another. For better for worse, richer or poorer, sickness and health, til death do us part. The reality of that day, however, was they had no context for any of those lines. They were young and fresh and in love with the world theirs for the taking. But now, fifty years later, those phrases hold the richness of time. They know about better, say the birth of grandchildren, and they know about worse – the death of their parents. They have learned that riches and poverty are sometimes about money but other times not at all. They have tasted the bitter of cancer and they have both tubed down hills covered in Colorado snow (and lived to tell about it). So this day is not so much renewing their vows as it is remembering them, and all the lived experiences that make them now so much more than words. Dearly beloved, after fifty years, it you cut the vows, they bleed.

No, it wasn’t that eloquent in the moment, mainly because I got the man vapors and lost it a couple of times when I looked into their aging eyes, those beautiful orbs that have consistently told me for forty-six years I love you.

After my set-up, they recited those old fashioned vows to one another, once again. And then Dad kissed his sweetheart bride.

My parents walked out of the same country church they did fifty years ago via that same aisle. Their steps were a little slower this time, but I believe they left vastly more aware of what Rilke called an infinitely tender hand. I followed them out, a few steps behind, and did what I was taught long ago to do in the wake of grace. I said thank you.


John Blase is the author of Know When To Hold 'Em: The High Stakes Game of Fatherhood (Abingdon 2013). He is also a poet who practices the craft at thebeautifuldue. He lives with his wife and three children in colorful Colorado.

Image by Marty Hadding. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.